To the editor:

Last weekend, I experienced the perfect storm of events that reflect the same perfect storm happening in our culture. As my cousin and I sat outside my house last Friday, she received a call from her daughter whose friend lay dying in the hospital from an overdose. That child was laid to rest recently.

On Saturday the funeral of one of my former students, a loving, caring and sensitive young woman, was held, and on Sunday after Mass, I met another former student who is struggling with the grief, anger, fear and love she feels as she walks the path of helping her friend as he fights to rehabilitate after an overdose.

Addiction is rampant in our culture. It affects all of us as it works its insidious tentacles into the corners of our lives. We read of its killing statistics in the news. We embrace the use of Narcan to help those victims who are in its throes. We look to law enforcement officers who tirelessly fight drug sales and drug dealers. We cry out for more rehabilitation services and drug awareness education for our children. Finally, we all secretly hope that this epidemic doesn't take one near and dear to us -- but it so easily can.

I have had the privilege of teaching young people for almost four decades. I have witnessed their passion, their quest for knowledge, their inherent kindness and goodness and their struggle to find a place for themselves in this ever-changing world. Moreover, I have also witnessed how the level of their anxiety has increased over time. Our fast-paced world with its technology, its materialism, its expectations to "Do It All," "Be the Best," "Have It All" has created an environment where what is is not enough, where people look outside rather than within to solve problems, where there is little time for self-reflection but a constant drive to go, go, go.

The perfect storm of the factors of a culture of drug availability, a culture of covering up instead of facing issues, a culture of quick fixes to problems, a culture that creates an excess amount of stress placed upon young people where the future is always the topic and the present is not addressed, and a culture where things, not people, are the focus, combine to lay the foundation for this horrific epidemic.

This storm has taken years -- decades even -- to develop and will take an enormous amount of time and effort to resolve itself. However, it must be stopped. There needs to be a multi-pronged approach to deal with each of the components that make up this disaster. But first, we must be honest enough to look at the issue -- to talk openly and honestly about its existence and to examine the elements within our culture that have created it so that we can come together to eradicate the needless loss of those whose lives we treasure.

Mary Gregoire


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